Indeed, when Santa Pod Raceway opened for business 50 years ago on Easter Monday 1966, the very first car to traverse the quarter-mile packed all of 948cc into its four-cylinder engine. Harold Bull’s Strip Duster was a slingshot dragster powered by an engine lifted from a Morris Minor. It was an immaculate miniature version of the thundering V8-motored dragsters which had so impressed and inspired Harold when an all-star team from America had toured Britain two years earlier, though there was nothing miniature about the car’s performance. With constant modifications and improvements made over the next few years, Strip Duster would not only win races against opponents at Santa Pod but would set world records against the clock at the Elvington records meeting in Yorkshire which still stand today.
When Harold Bull and his fellow BMC-powered arch-rival, John Whitmore, pulled to the Santa Pod start line, fans would hurry from all parts to watch. The same response is anticipated when Strip Duster recreates its maiden Santa Pod voyage at Dragstalgia, the venue’s annual historic revival meeting taking place from 15th to 17th July.
When he made that inaugural trip up the track, Harold was already 41 years old. Half a century later and still living at Wymington within earshot of Santa Pod, the self-taught, expert engineer and tool-maker has supervised the construction of a perfect Strip Duster replica by his son, Simon, who will pilot the car on its Dragstalgia outing. The original Strip Duster, now modified beyond recognition, is believed still to exist somewhere in Germany.
Dragstalgia brings forth a veritable treasure trove of historic drag racing machinery. Some 300 cars and motorcycles of all shapes, sizes and vintages will be in attendance over the July weekend, many in action on the track and others displayed alongside. Top of the bill and visiting from America will be the spectacular Fuel Altereds, Rat Trap and the Bradfords’ Topolino, along with a bygone era’s array of Dragsters and Funny Cars, Altereds and Stockers, plus bikes of many classes and kinds. There’ll be no mistaking the moment, however, when Simon Bull guides Strip Duster on its historic passage up the fabled quarter-mile.
In drag racing, the V8 is king and there is no substitute for cubic capacity. So says the received wisdom. Yet it is not strictly true, either today – when all manner of powerplants propel all manner of vehicles up the track – or in the earliest days, when eight-pot locomotion was a comparative rarity on the British scene.